« AnteriorContinuar »
world's history. That events so distant in time should stand in such near connexion, is nothing unusual. Numerous instances might be adduced of the same peculiarity of prophetic language. Jeremiah connects the conversion of the first fruits of the Jews, and the general conversion which is to be expected in future time, and passes over the intermediate rejection of the greater part. So Malachi prophesies of the coming of John the Baptist, in the same verse with the destruction of Jerusalem, as, Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Such being the habit of prophetic writing, we must be determined by other reasons than the connexion, as to the time and event here made the object of prophecy. And the expressions of this passage must have great violence done them, before they can be applied to any thing else than the resurrection and general judgment. Mr. B. pretends that a moral resurrection, such as took place on the day of pentecost is here foretoldthat they that sleep in the dust are those who were spiritually dead. Here we have it, that many at that time would rise from spiritual death—and some of these would find that they had risen from spiritual death, to go into shame and everlasting contempt! Awaking from the sleep in the dust of the earth, either means coming to spiritual life, or it does not. If it means that, it can by no means be asserted of those who awake to shame and everlasting contempt. Mr. B. quotes no authority to show that awaking from a sleep in the dust, is proper phraseology to express the being put to sleep in the dust by the Roman sword. And yet he tells us that a part awoke to everlasting life at the day of pentecost and then forty years afterwards, those who continued to sleep on, all at last awoke to shame and everlasting contempt, in the national calamities that came upon them. And then what were the glorious rewards attained by those who rose to everlasting life, fit to be compared to shining as the stars and the firmament? Surely it was not the glory of a flight to the town of Pella, the only reward which history records as received by christians then. Mr. Balfour makes the directness and plainness of this passage an
objection. He says, “ Did Daniel here speak of everlasting punishment of the wicked ? If he did, he declared it in plainer language than any other sacred writer.” Surely he is like to children sitting in the market and saying we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced, we have mourned unto you and ye have not lamented. The truth now is taught too plainly to admit belief.
I have already pursued this examination beyond the patience of the reader, and shall therefore omit other passages whose testimony is equally in point. And were I to labor in the summing up of the matter contained in this chapter to give you a vivid and forcible condensation of the proof, I could do nothing more effectually than to read you the passages commented on, and ask you to decide, what is the plain unsophisticated common sense interpretation of them. Read them and forget every comment that you heard of them, and you will find it difficult to resist the conviction that the word of God has revealed a judgment to come.
COLLATERAL PROOFS OF A JUDGMENT TO COME.
I CANNOT persuade myself to dismiss this topic, without presenting some facts and considerations which, independent of direct scripture testimony, appear to my own mind, conclusive proofs that there is to be a judgment after death. The theory of Mr. Balfour and the modern universalists (excepting as I do in all this discussion, the restorationists) is, if I understand it, that all punishment or retribution which God ever inflicts on men, he inflicts in this world. This idea I think can be shown to be untenable, aside from that kind of evidence which we have been examining. That it can be clearly proved that this present life is not the scene of God's last and most complete retribution. I shall not pretend that nothing is here done in a way of retribution. Scripture records many instances of retributions inflicted on nations and individuals. God here and there lets down a stroke of his justice to check the flow of human wickedness, and forewarn the world of what is to be expected, at the termination of the sinner's guilty career. But it is generally true that sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed.
My first reason for believing that this life is not the scene of complete and only retribution, is, that the ends of punishment are not fully nor chiefly answered by all the judgments that are inflicted on the wicked here. What is the end of punishment ? The universalist replies the good of the offender only. This is not true. But grant it for the moment. If all are punished according to their deeds in this world, it is plain that this punishment fails of securing in all instances the reformation of the offender. Those passages of scripture which speak of judging every man according to his works, are made by the universalist to say that all men have a complete retribution according to the deserts of their sin in this world, and this punishment is designed to reform the offender. But I ask, is this end answered? Are all effectually reformed in this life? Are the evils which the drunkard endures seen to be working a gradual reformation upon him as he approximates towards a drunkard's death? Does the man in the act of suicide show that the work of reformation was complete upon him at the moment when he left the world? The well known fact that millions of wretched beings are pressing on from this to the eternal world, increasing in wickedness and hardness of heart as they go, shows that the purpose of man's reformation is not universally and completely effected by punishment or any other means in this world. On this hypothesis God is every where attempting what he cannot effect, and then receiving into a state of being, where punishment and the rod of correction' never come-receiving to his confidence and love those whose obstinate rebellion neither persuasions nor chastisements could subdue.
But it is not true that all punishment is disciplinary, intended for the ultimate good of the offender. The execution of a murderer is not specially intended for his own good, but for the good of the state, to sustain the force of law. And the laws of God look as much to the public good as do the laws of a state. But understanding retribution as designed to give force to law, and cause the lawgiver to be feared and obeyed, we do not see its ends universally or generally answered in this world. No retributions, here experienced, avail to create a general respect for the law of God, to vindicate his power, holiness and truth, till all men have an effectual impression of it, and to rectify the disorders of the moral kingdom. We expect that the authority of God will be recognized, that the force and energy of government will be felt, if any where, surely on the ground where law is having its highest and most impressive executions. But what a farce is God's law, and what a mockery its execution, if having done its utmost, it secures
no more respect and obedience, than it gets from this world! God either has no law to which he will exact the obedience of men, or there is to be a day after the sun has ceased to shine upon this world, when he will render unto every man according to his works.
The fact that there are Atheists in the world, is of itself a proof of a judgment in the future world. For I take it to be self-evident, that retribution does not answer its proper ends, unless the person knows whence and why the infliction comes. According to the Hebrew law-giver, the offender is punished that all men may hear and fear; and retribution is in amount the practical declaration of God, of his purpose to enforce obedience, and if effectual, it is received as such by all on whom the example operates. If the government of any common, wealth should send out the strokes of justice through secret agents, employed for the punishment of crime, instead of distributing them through open courts of justice, so that the community should see that one was made to suffer in his estate, another in his reputation, another in the loss of life, while none knew why and whence the disaster came—that would answer no ends of government, and give no force to law. So a punishment sent from the King of kings, if it come not in ways so marked and manifest, as to compel conviction whence and why it comes, fails of its end. Is it to be credited then, that this world is the scene where God makes the highest manifestations of his justice, and gives the fullest enforcements to his law by penalties, while a great part of the world have no practical impression that there is a God—while few of those most deserving of punishment have any idea that they are receiving punishment for their sins ? Is God pouring his completest retributions through this world, while the world knows it not ? If so his whole design is frustrated, he is mocked by the work of his hands—he is mocked in his very attempt to make his power and justice known. And then it is a remarkable fact that the most wicked, those who deserve most deeply to feel the rod are usually most insensible of God's presence and power in the evils which they endure. Does this impers